Executive Summary

Emily Barton

Please describe your background and current position.

I was recently the Chief of Staff to Commissioner Huffman and am currently, leading implementation of Tennessee’s educator evaluation. Previously, I managed Teach for America’s D.C. Region and launched the organization’s work in Connecticut.

What did you do well in your teacher evaluation reforms?

I believe we did a good job engaging people in the selection of the rubric and training evaluators on the observation rubric. We are hearing that the rubric is leading to rich instructional conversation and I think that thiscan be credited to the fact that principals felt prepared.

I think that more broadly that the law and the policy strike a good balance of driving forward action and giving appropriate flexibility in implementation. If either had been more specific, we would have a more challenging situation. If there had been too much wiggle room, there would have been so much room that one could not do evaluation with fidelity.

In general, the teacher evaluation reforms are a step forward from our prior system.

What did not work well?

The chief challenge we share with other states is that there are a significant number of teachers in non-tested grades and subjects for whom a significant part of the evaluation does not feel based on their students.  I also believe that there are aspects of the mechanics of the system – how to enter information into the data system, how to select measures for the 15% that is based on student achievement – that I wish we had done a more comprehensive job in preparing evaluators. I also wish we had given districts and schools space to discuss how they would roll out things and provide content for the message.

What is the most important thing you could tell your counterpart in another state?

●     Oversee. Make sure that you are tightly coordinating and holding control of any contracts that are involved in implementation.

●     Train the evaluators. Identify the most essential aspects that evaluators need to feel prepared to do differently and do whatever it takes to nail the training

●     Be nimble. Issues will come up during the implementation year, no matter what, so make sure that rapid response systems are in place to answer questions and gather feedback

●     Have excess capacity. Make sure that you are building in capacity for revisions and additions in any contracts that are involved in implementation.

●      Be prepared. Finally, know that the work that all we are doing around evaluation goes to the core of the identity of teachers and, especially if the system really differentiates average, good and great teachers, be prepared that    the experience will be emotional and fundamentally a new concept

The Federal Government and Teacher Evaluation

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